Medina Spirit Trainer Bob Baffert Faces RICO Doping Suit (1)

May 14, 2021, 3:16 PM; Updated: May 14, 2021, 4:40 PM

Bob Baffert, the trainer of winning Kentucky Derby horse Medina Spirit who was later found to have been doped with a performance-enhancing substance, was hit with a racketeering suit in California federal court by bettors who had money on the second place finisher.

The proposed class action, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, seeks to pursue claims on behalf of all Kentucky Derby bettors who would have “won their bets and winnings had Medina Spirit been properly prohibited from competing in the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 2021 or competed without the aid of an illegal drug.”

Baffert was suspended indefinitely by Churchill Downs Racetrack. But the plaintiffs’ parimutuel wagers weren’t altered, the complaint alleges.

Baffert’s “pattern of racketeering activity” is shown by prior instances of doping horses “competing in thoroughbred races across the country,” including 2018 Triple Crown winner and Baffert-trained horse Justify, the plaintiffs say.

The complaint alleges that Baffert, Bob Baffert Racing Stables Inc., and Zedan Racing Stables Inc.—the owner of Medina Spirit—"conspired together and with other individuals to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the pattern of racketeering activity.”

“Defendants knew or should have known that betamethasone had been administered to Medina Spirit since the horse was stabled at Zedan Racing and was under defendants’ control, and since defendant Robert Baffert himself admitted that Medina Spirit’s positive test ‘may have been the result of exposure from an ointment that was applied to the colt for dermatitis,’” the complaint alleges.

Although betamethasone is allowed in Kentucky as a therapeutic, state rules require at least a 14-day withdrawal time before racing, and any level of detection on race day is a violation, according to the complaint.

Cause of Action: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the California Control of Profits of Organized Crime Act, equitable and common law fraud.

Relief: Damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.

Potential Class Size: The complaint estimates the class as more than 100 bettors.

Response: Baffert couldn’t be reached for comment.

Attorneys: Green and Noblin PC represents the plaintiffs.

The case is Beychok v. Baffert, C.D. Cal., No. 21-cv-04045, 5/13/21.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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